Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pillaging The Past

The ongoing war in Iraq has undoubtedly caused havoc from a cultural point of view. Among the thousands of victims claimed, the country's rich historical past has also suffered major casualties.
Even at the very beginning of the war in 2003, the Baghdad National Museum of Antiquites had apparently been ransacked and looted with little intervention on the part of US troops.

Though I am mostly distrustful of reports as to the destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage (American and Iraqi alike) since they may have probably been exaggerated and used as a springboard for the next vituperative attack on the Bush administration, I still somewhat feel more sorry for precisely this cultural cataclysm which seems to have gripped the country as a whole than for the human casualties on the battlefield, so to say. The latter is inevitable, but the former could have been prevented in a way.

It's yet another pitiful tale of the disgraceful sack of a major city. The situation, an anarchic mess, is perhaps comparable to the abhorrent and ridiculous nature of the Latin Empire that followed the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the catastrophic Forth Crusade. Just like the revered, valorous but ruthless Latin crusaders, the American troops are the Christian knights in shining armour intent on occupying the holy lands of Islamic oppression in the name of liberty and democracy. In the Fourth Crusade, none but few of the crusaders actually made it to Jerusalem and the Holy Lands as originally planned. In the American Crusade of the last 6 years, the Americans did make it to Baghdad but they left their purported chivalric virtues hanging in the thin air of their alleged 'liberator' personage.

Few realise that behind the nobility and courage of the medieval knight there lurked the reality and instinct of the ferocious warrior.

Though the war has indeed claimed thousands of victims, if the cultural heritage of a country is the backbone of its very identity, has not the wide-scale plunder and destruction claimed the lives of millions to come?

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